The Philippines’ Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) mandates that big agricultural landholdings be redistributed to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) as means to address rural poverty and agrarian issues. Included in these landholdings are those that are commercial farms and plantations. This is where the most contentious landholding issues between landlords and ARBs arise with prevailing landlord resistance hindering farmers to own lands.
To address this under the Estrada government, the Administrative Order No. 2, series of 1999 or the Joint Economic Enterprise for Productivity (JEEP) was enacted where ARBs may enter into business agreements with private investors or even to former landlords. Under the Benigno Aquino III government, this was further revised to Administrative Order No. 2, series of 2006 implementing and monitoring agribusiness venture arrangement (AVA) activities in rural areas.
With increasing evidences that land deals and negotiations are deemed unfair to ARBs leaving them disadvantaged due to their limited capacity to evaluate contracts, new measures are proposed to protect the rights of these farmers. Hence, the AVA Bill is to be filed this 17th Congress to regulate AVA contracts and reduce asymmetries between them.
On 15 November 2016, Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC), People’s Campaign for Agrarian Reform, Inc. (AR Now!) and the International Land Coalition National Engagement Strategy (NES) Platform conducted a roundtable discussion (RTD) on The Philippines’ Experience on Agribusiness Venture Arrangement: Challenges and Ways Forward to (i) to share the result of the joint Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) multi-sectoral study on AVA Policy and Implementation under CARP, and (ii) to give orientation on the proposed bills on AVA.
Twenty-seven participants from CSOs, grassroots, government agencies, and legislators’ offices took part in the RTD to identify existing issues and challenges on AVAs and to provide recommendations on the proposed AVA Bill.
Some issues identified are the lack of support to ARBs after awarding of lands; low returns to ARBs; unfair ventures; lack of capacities of ARBs in engaging to contracts; lack of credit support for the non-bankable ARBs; employment law issues (e.g. contractualization of farmworkers); lack of enabling framework in the AVA policy for empowerment of farmers; DAR’s limited capacity to assist ARBs’ need for legal assistance; and land grabbing.
Among of recommendations of CSOs and farmers are the following:
- Include provisions on capacity building for ARBs on making lands productive with initial capitalization and equipment;
- Build capacities of government offices, CSOs and law groups to offer lawyering to ARBs
- Guarantee employment for every land entered into informal lease transactions or arrendo;
- Encourage good practices through incentives;
- Allow CSOs to participate in the review and monitoring of AVAs;
- Conduct market study to update the lease rental rates;
- Strengthen the role of DAR to review AVA and penalize violations of agrarian reform;
- Allow ARBs to access information of cheaper alternatives;
- Government to ensure that all export products have price index of the world market price;
- AVA contracts must be written in local dialects; and
- Setting minimum standards to AVA contracts.
 AVA “refers to entrepreneurial collaboration between ARBs and investors to implement an agribusiness venture involving lands distributed under CARP” (DAR Administrative Order No. 2, series of 2006).